As I write, we are in the last sitting fortnight of Parliament before the House of Representatives and Senate rise for the Winter break.
During the fortnight, the Government announced the signing of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement, with the Chinese Ambassador to Australia and the Australian Ambassador to China present in the chamber.
The Federal Opposition has broadly welcomed the agreement, but will now consider all the details and examine its impact on the Australian economy.
China is Australia’s largest trading partner, and strengthening the critical economic relationship will be important for our future prosperity.
The Federal Opposition wants to ensure a high-quality agreement that achieves genuine market access for Australian exporters and supports and creates Australian jobs.
Our benchmark for a high-quality agreement with China includes:
- New Zealand-plus market access outcomes for Australian farmers
- Elimination or significant reductions in tariffs on Australian industrial goods
- Retention of Australia’s anti-dumping safeguards
- Major improvements in market access for Australian services
- Reduction in red-tape and other barriers to two-way investment flows between Australia and China
- No provisions that give Chinese companies operating in Australia superior legal rights to those enjoyed by Australian companies, and
- Retention of labour market testing or comparable safeguards on temporary migration.
The Federal Opposition believes the impact of the agreement on the Australian labour market warrants particular attention. Any provisions on labour mobility must enhance, not constrain, job opportunities for Australians.
The agreement will now be considered by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties and the Senate’s Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade Committee.
The Parliament and the Australian public will also have the opportunity to examine the text of the agreement.
These inquiries will allow business, experts and members of the public to have their say.
In the meantime, I’ll use the six week sitting break to get out and about in my community and continue to work for a fair and inclusive Australia. As Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, I’ll also use the time to meet with Australian Defence Force personnel and Defence industry and stakeholders.